Pakistan appears to be finally gearing up for lifting the months-old ban on Nato supplies for foreign troops fighting a deadly Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.
In a clearest sign as yet, the authorities opened a vital border crossing this week, albeit briefly, to allow at least four containers of ‘office supplies’ for the US Embassy in Kabul to cross into Afghanistan for the first time in six months.
The development comes as President Asif Ali Zardari left on Friday for a key Nato summit in Chicago scheduled for May 20 and 21 where the issue of blocked supplies is likely to figure prominently.
Pakistan is under intense US pressure to lift the blockade before the Chicago gathering.
A US Embassy spokesperson in Islamabad confirmed that ‘a few non-Nato containers carrying diplomatic cargo’ were allowed to cross into Afghanistan from the Torkham border.
However, Mark Stroh made it clear that the permission had nothing to do with the resumption of Nato supplies suspended since November last year following the deadly Nato air raid in Salala.
“Nato supply routes remain blocked,” he added.
But the brief opening of the land routes is being seen as a prelude to the eventual resumption of supplies for the Western forces in Afghanistan.
A Foreign Office official said that the ‘diplomatic courier’ had no linkage with the Ground Lines of Communications (GLOCs), as Nato supply routes are called in official jargon, but acknowledged that it was a sign of easing of tensions between the two countries.
“I can’t give you the exact number but a lot more will go to Afghanistan in coming days. These all are diplomatic shipments – I mean non-Nato supplies,” a Peshawar-based official was quoted as saying by AFP.
There were conflicting accounts of when the trucks crossed, with one source saying they began moving earlier in the week and another saying they passed through on Friday.
Almost 300 containers of US Embassy supplies, including stationery, computers and printers, are understood to have been stranded in Pakistan by the blockade.
An American diplomat claimed that, under the Vienna Convention, Pakistan should not have stopped ‘diplomatic shipments’ at first place when it shut down supply lines for Nato goods.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 19th, 2012.
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